One Wall Street Journal pundit after another called this year's election the most important of our lifetime, a choice between European "socialism" and American "traditionalism."
I guess Americans prefer European socialism. But you won't hear that from them. (OK, the American right's misstatements aren't limited to election predictions. European socialism isn't really what people think of as the Marxist variety. In fact, Europe is becoming more "liberal" and less "socialist" all the time.)
First, conservatives like Dick Morris and Rush Limbaugh, who predicted a Romney Electoral College landslide, characterized Obama's larger margin as a "squeaker." Then, they refuse to admit that the American people chose an active government to fix the inherent flaws of the marketplace. Here are the explanations they do offer:
- The left wing media -- ignoring Benghazi -- and much else. (Fox News)
- Hurricanes: Sandy or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (Dick Morris)
- Obama's campaign going negative to define Romney (Karl Rove/Michael Barone)
- Romney wasn't sufficiently "likable" (George Will)
- Incumbency (Bill Bennett/James Pinkerton)
- Americans are afraid of change (Peggy Noonan)
- Romney wasn't conservative enough (Mike Huckabee)
- The Democratic ground game (all of them)
How about substance? How about that over half the American people support the Democratic Party and President Obama's agenda?
The American people hate Obamacare? Guess not. Increase tax rates on upper income Americans? Exit polls reveal that the American people agree.
Funny, when a Republican wins, conservative analysts don't focus on, say, Reagan's greater "likability." No, it's all about how the American people support limited government.
The closest these conservatives will now come to "substance" is some recognition of changing demographics. There is something greater than tactics here, but it is still grudging. And often tied to a perverse reading of the Democratic agenda -- that liberalism is allowing American minorities to become dependent.
Anyone who has read the DREAM Act knows that it is a way of rewarding desirable behavior, not dependency. Obamacare is also an attempt to make people more functional and mobile, not less. Pell Grants? Dependency? Come on.
Not enough contrast between the candidates? How about too much -- in the sense that the Republican nominee cannot position himself closer to the "middle" of the American electorate, where an iron rule of American politics says that a general election candidate needs to be. Romney, like John McCain, had to chase after the far right-wing base of his party, often to a ridiculous extent. In one Republican primary debate, the candidates were asked if they would accept a deal with $10 of budget cuts for every $1 of tax increases. Not one Republican would agree -- including Romney.
Politicians in both parties will do what they think they need to do to win. But the Republican Party is so out of touch with the American people that the political candidates feel that they have to be equally out of touch to win the nomination. Then good luck in the general election. Guess "Etch A Sketch" isn't a great political strategy after all.
The focus on the presidential race distracts from the fact that Tuesday night was actually a major liberal victory. Gay marriage supported for the first time by popular vote -- not in one state, but four. Marijuana initiatives passing. Tax rate increases on upper-income Californians.
And, of course, the Democrats picked up two Senate seats. A year ago, Dick Morris wrote that Republicans could pick up 13 seats and have a filibuster proof majority. Just before Election Day, he argued that Republicans would pick up three to six seats minimum.
And they lose two?
Of those conservative explanations for Obama's victory, only the Democratic ground game applies to the Senate races. Elizabeth Warren wasn't elected because of Romney's lack of likability.
But, Mitch, what about the House of Representatives? The Republicans retained it while losing a few seats. Doesn't this indicate a divided country?
No, it reflects the power of gerrymandering. It is virtually never mentioned in the media but Democrats actually won a majority of the votes in the House elections. (It is reported on The Huffington Post) -- by less than 1 percent, but still, a majority.
Due to gerrymandering, the partisan drawing of Congressional districts, especially in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Florida, Democrats actually underperformed by 16-20 seats.
Thank the 2010 off-year elections which promoted Republican officials to shape congressional districts which are redrawn every 10 years. While gerrymandering is virtually an American tradition -- and Democrats do it too (see California and Illinois) -- without it, the Democrats would either have regained the majority or the House would be almost evenly split.
This is democracy?
Yes, the Republicans face problems -- and not merely changing demographics and an extreme agenda. This was the best opportunity for Republicans to control the Senate for the next six years. The Democrats were defending 23 of 33 seats. In the next two elections, Republicans will be defending, 37 of 67 seats -- more than half.
Meanwhile, the Democrats also face challenges, albeit more procedural: off-year elections where their voters don't show up and gerrymandering. As well as the manipulation of election rules/equipment so that voting becomes a chore rather than a privilege. These are significant structural issues that Democrats need to confront before it's too late.
In the meantime, Democrats should govern as the American people have directed. After all, this was the most important election of our lifetime. Sometimes conservative opinion must be respected.